NEW YORK: With an increase in membership from 10 to 25 independent experts this year, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture is set to step up its activities, including unannounced visits to places of detention.
The Subcommittee has now reached full strength as a result of the increasing number of ratifications, which have reached 60 states.
“The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture is a new kind of treaty body in the UN human rights system. It has a purely preventive mandate focused on proactive and sustained actions for the prevention of torture and ill treatment,” said Subcommittee Chairperson, Mr. Malcolm Evans, after presenting the Subcommittee’s report to the General Assembly today.
The Subcommittee was established under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, which came into force in 2006.
The Protocol creates a two-pronged system for prevention of torture and other forms of ill treatment in all places of detention. While the Subcommittee functions at the international level, with the mandate to visit places of detention unannounced, states must, at the national level, put in place a similar system of visits by an independent national body.
“The combination of international and national preventive mechanisms offers a powerful tool to address the central human rights concern of torture and ill-treatment,” said Mr. Evans.
“States should consider ratifying the Optional Protocol at the earliest possible opportunity as a tangible manifestation of their commitment to the values of human rights and the rule of law in general and to the prevention of torture and ill-treatment in particular,” Mr. Evans stressed.
Referring to the 13 field visits carried out so far by the Subcommittee, Mr. Evans highlighted pressing and recurrent problems including overcrowding, misuse of pre-trial detention, gaps between legal safeguards and practice and states’ acceptance of deplorable conditions of detention.
“To address these systemic problems, it is vital for state parties to establish national preventive mechanisms that strictly comply with the standards of the Optional Protocol,” said Evans said.
The subcommittee works in parallel with the Committee Against Torture, with a separate membership.
(*) Mr. Evans is Professor of Public International Law at the University of Bristol and has served as Head of the School of Law (2003-2005) and Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law (2005-2009). Professor Evans is a renowned authority in the field of international law of the sea and international human rights protection, particularly torture and torture prevention and freedom of religion or belief. In 2009, he was elected member of the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and in 2010 elected as Chairperson.
Learn more about the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/opcat/index.htm
For more information or media requests, please contact Patrice Gillibert (Tel.: + 41 22 917 9332 / email: firstname.lastname@example.org).